“If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one. But if you are not listened to, take one or two others along with you, so that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.” (Matthew 18:15-17)Here, Jesus lays out the ground rules for when someone wrongs us & does not apologize or change their ways. It is obvious that Jesus wants us to do everything possible to make this person repent. We are to speak to them alone, then with a couple of friends/church members, & if that doesn’t work, to talk to the entire church. If even that doesn’t work, we have an interesting command: Treat them as you would treat a gentile & tax collector. At this point in the bible, Jesus’ message was very clear. The Jews hated gentiles & tax collectors, & looked at them as thieves & pagans. They avoided them as much as possible. Therefore, Jesus is quite clearly telling us that if a person absolutely refuses our reaching out to them, & they do not apologize AND turn away from the activity after all efforts have been made, at that point we may avoid that person.
Of course, should that person every truly repented, I am sure Christ would want us to welcome them back into our lives. We don’t necessarily have to spend our time with them, or be their best friends, but we are required to forgive them. Here is another interesting verse:
“Even if that person wrongs you seven times a day and each time turns again and asks forgiveness, you must forgive.” ( Luke 17:4)Notice here again we see that if someone asks for our forgiveness, we must give it. Even if they wronged us 7 times per day. We must forgive openly. But, notice also that he says “& asks for forgiveness,” which indicates, like the above verse, that if they refuse to apologize or repent, we do not have to reconcile with them.
That doesn’t mean that we should hold a grudge, or treat them hatefully. All it means is that we must forgive when people wrong us, & if they repent, then we have the opportunity to continue a relationship with that person (if we desire). If they do not repent, then we should still love them, pray for them, & forgive them (for our sake & for God), but we do not necessarily have to maintain a relationship. In fact, it may be necessary to “treat them as a tax collector or pagan” in terms of avoiding contact.
In my life, I have some people who I have tried to forgive, but have not ONCE asked for forgiveness. They are always coming up with some excuse to be mad at me or my family. Oh, you did this 5 years ago & I'm hurt. Get over it! I apologized, even though I don't even remember saying what I was accused of saying (for Heaven's sake, I was very sick & on medication...I don't remember most days for almost 3 years) several times! And they act like they've never hurt me or my family & have never apologized for wrongs they've done to me. I've tried. I've called, emailed, went to their house & they've made it perfectly clear that they want no part of my life or my family's life. Therefore, I have made a cognitive decision. They are 'tax collectors' to me. I have forgiven them for all of their many wrongs in my heart. I've handed it over to God....that's all I can do. It's just sad & pitiful...we're all adults here, last time I checked. It's high time we act like it.